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EDF targets net-zero for UK with 40 battery storage and EV hubs

02 July 2021 Cristina Brooks

The renewable arm of French-state-owned multinational utility EDF Group has launched a 50-MW battery storage system for electric vehicle (EV) charging spots, the first of "up to 40" so-called SuperHubs intended to help meet the UK's net-zero goals.

The battery system installed for the city of Oxford, England, is part of Energy SuperHub Oxford (ESO), one of three grid-scale and domestic battery demonstration projects funded in part by the UK Government's innovation agency, Innovate UK.

It was built by EDF Renewables' newly acquired battery developer, Pivot Power, and will supply energy for EV charging stations (initially for a parking lot with 38 charging points) as well as domestic heat pumps, and smart energy management technologies in the city.

These assets may become key to improving the flexibility of the electric grid as decarbonizing heating and transport picks up pace to meet the nation's net-zero carbon emissions deadline in 2050. The government currently has several grant programs targeting EV and domestic heating consumers. The Green Homes Grant, which the parliament's Environmental Audit Committee called "botched," was canceled in March.

Pivot Power called the SuperHub project "a blueprint for other towns and cities to achieve net-zero" in a 23 June statement. In this case, the SuperHub will help Oxford city reach a proposed 2040 net-zero carbon target, which will be preceded by a 2030 net-zero target for government services. The city secured about £1.6 million in state funding to participate in the SuperHub.

The battery will also provide energy storage services. This means it will store and deliver power to electricity suppliers and help balance local demand (flexibility) for the grid operators.

EDF Renewables is a venture of EDF Energy, a major supplier of electricity in the UK with eight nuclear power plants that generate about a fifth of the UK's elecricty.

On the global level, EDF is pursuing its 2018 Electricity Storage Plan that will see it invest €8 billion ($9.5 billion) to develop 10 GW of energy storage. It is planning to develop energy storage in France, elsewhere in Europe, and in off-grid parts of Africa by 2035, based on previous success with 15,000 installations of solar panels with batteries in Côte d'Ivoire.

EDF acquired UK-based Pivot Power, specializing in battery storage and infrastructure for EV charging, in 2019. Since then, Pivot Power not only has 38 SuperHubs under development, but EDF in the UK has used its energy trading expertise, technology solutions, and trading platform to secure deals to direct battery energy flows to markets.

In December, EDF had agreed to optimize battery storage asset manager SWGT's 30-MW utility-scale battery and investor Gresham House Energy Storage Fund's 50-MW battery site at Wickham Market. "The UK's transition to a low-carbon future will increasingly draw on the flexibility of assets such as these," said Stuart Fenner, head of energy trading services at EDF in a statement.

On 28 June, EDF became trading and optimization partner for battery operator Zenobe's 100-MW battery in Capenhurst, UK.

UK battery market evolves for EV growth

The UK battery market is evolving. The country has 1.3 GW of battery energy storage capacity operational and over 16.5 GW at 686 sites in the pipeline, according to research provider Solar Media.

In July 2020, UK regulations were changed to allow use of larger energy storage projects, removing limits of 50 MW in England and 350 MW in Wales. Taking advantage of the change, energy company InterGen has proposed building a 320-MW battery for energy storage in London.

Battery operators in the UK are looking forward to other regulatory and market mechanisms that will allow them to contract with multiple customers to reach the required "value stack" that lets such investments reach profitability, according to Jeff Damron, Wärtsilä's Director of Business Development and Proposals, Energy Storage and Optimization.

Another UK government-backed project in which EDF participates on Scotland's Orkney Islands, TraDER, is creating a trading platform that simplifies providing energy services by creating a single access point for operators of batteries and other assets.

This should allow renewable developers to contract with battery providers and installers to store and sell more energy, which will let them develop their projects at a lower cost.

Renewable energy developers in the UK are currently dealing with price cannibalization, which is leading to falling profits as a result of oversupply at times of peak output, but the UK government "recognize[s] the need for flexibility in the system and [is] looking at ways to support projects that offer flexibility services," according to UK law firm Addleshaw Goddard.

In December, the government put out a call for evidence asking whether it should support battery energy storage co-located with solar farms through the UK's main subsidy program for renewable developers, Contracts for Difference.

Government support on the way

In adiditon, the UK's electricity market regulator Ofgem has been tinkering with the way grids operate since the 2017 publication of its Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan. "Flexibility is essential in order to integrate high volumes of low-carbon power, heat, and transport into our energy system," the UK government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in July.

Ofgem has recently revised government contracts for electricity network operators to force them to become more "decentralized, decarbonized, and digitalized" through its RIIO-ED2 price control framework, which runs from 2023 to 2028. For example, it requires distribution network operators to grow their capacity using "flexible" solutions where they can.

Posted 02 July 2021 by Cristina Brooks, Senior Journalist, Climate and Sustainability


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